Excel use as a designer or tech designer

So I am applying to tech design positions in addition to senior designer positions to increase the chances of being hired. I have been out of the industry during COVID and am trying to get back in, after over 30 years working as a designer and design director but feeling pushed out by my age of being over 50.

I noticed tech designers and patternmakers can be older and still have a job, and in fact it’s considered a plus in some companies if you have years of experience whereas not so positive if you are a designer.

I noticed many companies want you to know Excel if you apply for a tech design role and I am wondering why? Dont most companies use PLM these days for tech packs? Are they expecting you to build your own spreadsheets or??

Final question-where can I learn how to use fashion industry specific skills in Excel? Does LinkedIn offer tutorials and explain the need for Excel for tech designers?
Thank you!


I work as a tech designer & patternmaker- I do agree that there seems to be less bias in this field (although I also worked with a lot of experienced designers, I think it’s very company & product dependent).

Most big companies do use a PLM system, although typically as a tech designer you would export data from PLM into Excel and sort it accordingly to track your work. If you are a manager you’ll need to be fairly confident in exporting data and making sense of it so you can make sure everything is on track and no styles get missed or continued to be worked on if they are dropped.

For smaller companies or less advanced companies, Excel is used for tech packs & graded measurement charts.

Primarily you’ll want to be good at sorting data, creating cleaned up charts, possibly using the data to create charts for presentation purposes . I think any basic excel class will teach you the things you’ll need to know as a tech designer. You could probably watch some YouTube tutorials, sign up for a SkillShare subscription or LinkedIn Learning.

Do you have tech design / patternmaking experience?


I have tech design experience on samples being made overseas where I fit proto through production stage and adjust specs/write fit corrections.

As far as I’m house samplemaking I usually have draped the proto and create the style lines on a dress form and have handed it over to the first Patternmaker to make the pattern; I have not created a flat pattern myself. Is that a prerequisite?

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In house samplemaking


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That’s great!

I don’t think most tech designers are also patternmakers, but for a Tech design or senior tech design level job they’ll want to see you directing pattern corrections- usually that’s done via screen shots & illustrator or the like.

Do you use any patternmaking software? They will probably look for that and illustrator familiarity (but that part is probably easy for you as a designer)

I’ve found that the level of jobs I get interviewed for has greatly increased with a website showcasing pattern corrections and finished product.

I also think it’s worth getting some decent photos done for a website use- seeing your face can go a long ways in making the connection and getting an interview or more.

Hope this helps!


Most big companies use a PLM system, but Excel is used by a lot of small -to mid-size companies for tech packs and charts. There are basic Excel tutorials available. You will need to know how to set up and link sheets/charts, import data, auto-fill, use the graphics tools etc. Many job postings also request expert-level Illustrator skills, so that should tip you off that the job is detail-intense.

As the industry has changed over the last 30 years and less initial “hands-on” design work was being done in the US, there has been less demand for actual patternmaking here, which led to the rise of “Technical Design” - mostly written instructions and photos or pinned samples sent to a foreign factory. If you have actual patternmaking experience it helps immensely in being able to analyze
and communicate effectively about fit and construction issues and solutions. Also having some exposure or experience in computer patternmaking- 2D or3D - is helpful because most patterns are software-generated on the factory side nowadays.


Agree with all above- most smaller companies tend to use excel, while larger companies use a PLM system… either way, it’s still usually the same skill set of writing specs initially, adjusting specs, writing grade rules (and adjusting as needed), providing fit comments and pattern corrections- usually drawing on photos of patterns, etc. Knowledge of excel and illustrator is important.
I’ve never actually used patternmaking software, but I usually partner with factories that provide either paper patterns or screenshots of patterns, in order to advise corrections.
In whatever format you use- excel or PLM- your results are only as good as the information you take to plug into it…I’ve seen PLM systems where there is so much stuff loaded into it that updates are easy, whereas some it’s like searching through a minefield to bring up the correct codes to fill. I personally prefer excel/illustrator, but in either format I am still providing the same information and doing the same general “work”.


I’ve been battling ageism for 2 years as with every Zoom interview the interviewer is younger than me. It’s rampant and can not be proved but it is there and not just in the fashion industry or even just in NY. It’s nationwide.


In my 35+ year career between NYC (12 years) and the rest in LA, I have never once been hired by anyone my age or younger. They have all been older, by atleast 5 years. That said, anyone 5 years older than me that I have worked for has either retired, died, been let go from the same company and is unemployed, or sold the brand I worked for, if they are still in the industry at all. Grim reality.

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I work in the PR side of the fashion industry, but I know GlamObserver now offers an Excel for fashion online course that may be relevant - not affiliated with her, but I took another course from her and she’s legit.

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@Vetdesigner -

I just wanted to add that you can most likely take the LinkedIn Learning classes for free if your local library offers that as a digital service, you just log in from home with your library card.

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